Ménières disease describes a set of episodic symptoms including vertigo (attacks of a spinning sensation), hearing loss, tinnitus (a roaring, buzzing, or ringing sound in the ear), and a sensation of fullness in the affected ear. Episodes typically last from 20 minutes up to 4 hours.
Hearing loss is often intermittent, occurring mainly at the time of the attacks of vertigo. Loud sounds may seem distorted and cause discomfort. Usually, the hearing loss involves mainly the lower pitches, but over time this often affects tones of all pitches. After months or years of the disease, hearing loss often becomes permanent. Tinnitus and fullness of the ear may come and go with changes in hearing.
In 1973, Stahle and colleagues reported a prevalence of 46 cases per 100,000 people. From 1975, several studies indicated a prevalence of 17 cases per 100,000 people. Kotimaki and colleagues reported a prevalence of 43 per 100,000 and an average yearly incidence of 4–3 per 100,000 people in the population. Most studies suggest a female preponderance of up to 1–3 times that in men.
Evaluation and management of dizziness and vertigo can be one of the most difficult medical tasks. Sources of imbalance can range from simple conditions (eg, dehydration) to serious conditions (eg, brain tumors). Central nervous system (CNS) problems must be distinguished from circulation anomalies, chemical and hormonal imbalances, and peripheral inner ear disorders. Often, this distinction is not clear.